2023: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Year-end recaps are supposed to start off with something like “what an AMAZING, FORTUITOUS, AND PRODUCTIVE TIME for our organization. "

The latter may be true, but the truth is that 2023 was challenging. This post captures the spectrum of operational sensations we went through in the past calendar year.

The Good

Acorn kicked the year off in style visiting Miami Beach, Florida. Coconuts, palms, fun shirts, and the future idea of returning and renting an e-lambo for style points. We were honoured to be invited to attend D-Waves qubits conference, bringing together some of the brightest minds across industry and academia to discuss the roles of quantum annealing.

Since we were in Miami, Nick and Mitch also took an opportunity to maximize the idea of flexible working arrangements and spent time at the Miami Beach WeWork comparing notes from the remote work over 2019-2022 period.

Work, it turns out, can be rather fun to do in person.

Kjörn Dogs v Miami

Since I was already in Miami, I also was able to look up events situated around D-Wave Qubits where I found Quantum Miami, a cryptocurrency conference.

And Did You Know:

Every time I try to explain my time in Miami I end up confusing the bejeepers out of listeners by saying I went to a quantum computing conference for computational optimization but! The conference I attended for the blockchain was called Quantum Miami.

Meeting Samuel, and why you should go to events

Mitch and Sam, the mans with the plans...

At Quantum Miami, the non quantum computing crypto conference (😑), crafty Samuel looked through the event application and incidentally located yours truly. Seeing the types of professionals he wanted to interface with at the conference, he brought us into a decorative hotel lobby where a lovely industry-wide conversation happened about digital infrastructure, cryptocurrency, the attendees' various roles in vocation, and ultimately about life in general... and the stars ...(and then some). In making such a profound introduction, Samuel made his way to become our director of sales and will be continuing to build out our sales pipelines, client relationships, all while positioning Acorn for “top secret long term objectives”.

Chief Network Profesh Sammy

The first kick at the 'collaboration can' was to bring Samuel to Vancouver and attend Vancouver Startup Week. The timing of the event (being caught knee-deep in the initiation of a client project) had us divide and conquer the need to be a face in Vancouver Startup Week, and a fully functional digital agency shipping designs, code, and managing client relationships.

Not only did we do that, but we also MacGyver-ed the accommodations. Samuel was given access to my apartment and I created my own hybrid living arrangement by staying with friends in the area and even paying visit to Vancouver’s “The Burrard” and the “Opus Hotel”. Not every professional in the workaverse would be game for such a fast paced whack-a-doodle of an event/project instantiation but I quickly learned the type of professional I was dealing with, and our complimentary roll with the punches, rough and tumble slash figure it out mentality.

For more information about Samuel:

On top of utilizing Samuel’s time in Vancouver to:

  1. Meet the team
  2. Demonstrate a project instantiation
  3. Attend a startup week

I, in my cluttered mind, also floated the idea of using the startup week to see if there were personnel interested in joining our eclectic team. In acknowledging the need, Samuel introduced us to Acorn’s next chapter of operational stability.

Sarah Winter and the Need for Dutiful Project Management Methodologies

Sarah, having also attended Vancouver Startup week, hit it off with Samuel. As I’m sure many know, in the early phases of an organization there’s a need to be wearing multiple hats. And as for Acorn, we had been plugging away at process instantiations for:

  • Business Analysis
  • Project Management
  • Systems Architecture
  • Product Owner
  • Techical Specifications
  • Quality Assurance and Test Planning

With Sarah’s arrival, we had a fresh pair of eyes to review the processes and systems we had built internally and client-facing to date. Having a new perspective really helped us to get critical insights on our operational blindspots, and having recently completed a digital project management course for agile, Sarah was also fresh with the latest and greatest in process related methodologies to bolster Acorn’s desire for continuous improvement.

Calm, compassionate, considerate. This is Sarah Winter.

Recruitment is not only hands on deck, but an opportunity to onboard fresh perspective.

Sarah introduced us to the disciplined agile browser, an index of reading materials to govern the work we have done to date. Since information online is vast and never ending, having team members confident to contribute tools and techniques that work for them or advocate for processes they feel will drive the success of the organization is one core competency Acorn is looking to propel moving forward.

Nobody can know it all.

By introducing this, Sarah brought us into a series of human-centric, meeting-intense, process tailoring sessions. It’s staggering to realize that

  • people can be smart
  • people can be talented
  • people can be ambitious and
  • people can be all of 1-3 and yet be completely misaligned.

It’s not to say that things were broken per-se. It’s that dutiful process tailoring is like housekeeping in a sense. The carpenters who built it can be very talented, the plumbing and electrical fully functional, the architect and interior designs world class and still there’s a bunch of gunk and mank in the most unexpected spots over time.

Smoothe, sultry, dutiful and detailed project management timelines using JIRA. Mm mm mmm.
Timesheets and phased based cost tracking. The sixth wonder of the world...

Having proceeded with our process tailoring series, we learned several lessons to evolve our process:

  1. Phasing of projects is very important
  2. Phasing of projects is hard
  3. People may want to “get working” but coordination and discipline are required to align stakeholders with the logical sequence of a project's fulfillment
  4. Understanding the roles assigned to phases is a stepping stone towards scheduling for a project's expedient fulfillment and empowers later chapters of handling role-based tasks with project concurrency (e.g. 2^n projects handled simultaneously)
  5. Without deliberation, task frustrations can accrue and should be triaged and treated early
  6. Constructing project phases with aforementioned considerations allows for fidelity in contracting terms
  7. Constructing project phases with aforementioned considerations allows for routine billing sequences based on contract terms

Long and Short

Progress. In a lot of ways our work is the digital equivalent to a circus jester spinning plates while juggling. Understanding the ways in which to coordinate neurodiverse and skills-diverse teams is both a strength and a source of constant reflection. Learning how to proceduralize the reflection, and document our findings from such events is how we can empower our sales and outreach capacities with product knowledge and data analytics reflective of cost, time, and effort.

Stronger every day, progress is never perfection. Looking forward to 2024.


The Bad

I write this section not as a religious confessional service or out of the need to vent. I’m writing this as an extension of the prior section on “the good”, coming from a position of “just say it”.

Honest Reflection is How We Learn

One of the major themes I noticed in 2023 was a disarray of major developments, all very important, and all colliding in highly volatile and highly consequential ways.

The Emergence of “The AI”

There is no doubt in many tech industry folks' minds that... perhaps the enthusiasm became slightly repetitive this, uh, year.

As for the potential of the technology suites, it’s beyond indisputable. Real time multi-source aggregated insights with inference, multi-spectrual high data volume computation to drive research and development for new and novel technologies, productivity enhancements - the list goes on. To avoid hot water on the subject, this is a FUNDAMENTAL development in modern computation that has to happen.


To me it just feels like a rebound of the past chapter of digital systems. There’s a lot of hype, and little attention to detail. To me, productivity enhancements from the development of the technology still fundamentally require technically focused subject matter expertise. Stable project methodologies to leverage AI in a meaningful way require distributed intelligence from multi-stakeholder teams for contextually relevant task sets. Furthermore, with the major determinant of functional AI systems being easily parseable data in large volumes, I find the misconception that AI is somehow a replacement for stable development operations and an excuse to circumvent ethical parameters to be a major deterrent to stable advances of the technology, let alone functional invocations.

We’re not even at compute cost yet, which we should be covering more detail in the coming months along with sharing pertinent insights across our social platforms.

For more insights on applied AI see our article about Bindu Reddy and Abacus.ai

Mature Industry Stakeholders Making Claims That Are Not Applicable to Emerging Enterprises

This section has to deal with the Shopify policy of no meetings. Again, I’m not writing this to cast stones but to offer reflections on how one set of policies may apply to an organization or industry in one stage of maturation, but not be directly translatable to another. Let’s make it constructive.

No Meetings Wouldn’t Have Worked for the Recuritment and Onboarding of Key Personnel at an Early Phase

In fact, we found ourselves needing more, not less meetings. Less meetings is the destination. This destination is achieved through common vision, common understandings of task delegation, the accurate elucidation of technical and business specifications, and experiential knowledge to translate all of these into functional, time sensitive deliverables. Time sensitivities are essential for expectation management, and it's hard to contradict the value of productivity gains in work. Hearing from well oiled machines with vast sums of capital, with much longer durations of operational tenure that they were able to alleviate meetings sounds more like a benchmark of organizational maturation than it sounds like a directly transferable suite of policies.

One (of many) downsides of social networks is what I would refer to as a parrot effect. A noteworthy actor is able to share a claim that, for all intents and purposes, is entirely accurate within their own context. In doing so, they create cultural expectations that this is somehow universally translatable. Inadvertently, they run the *risk* (trying to not be definitive here) of creating suites of expectations that are incompatible for a variety of industry verticals that are each at their own phases of development. From a “what works for the goose and gander” perspective, I simply want to flag this as a risk with consideration of emerging firms who may not have the capital affordances or luxury to install such a policy at this phase, while at the same time acknowledging that through organizational maturation there comes a time where the invocation of such policies could lead to a fairly interesting series of note exchanges.

To conclude this, I think that ordinary peer relationships and constructive critique are more needed than ever. This becomes a question of how to do so. To me this is a capacity that is learned from engagement and experience, and has little - if nothing - to do with dunking. Perhaps a recommendation that we give it the ol’ college try.

Cryptocurrency Market Volatility

Like any new technological advent, there is a generalizable trend of speculation ruining the cocktail soiree. Cryptocurrency and blockchain, while a technologically sophisticated methodology of fiduciary computation and a record keep for domains like banking, is not free from the whims of human behaviour. With that, and as many know, cryptocurrency had a bit of a wiggly year. I write this because of some observations I had between my time at D-Wave Qubits and Quantum Miami last January.

On the one hand, D-Wave Qubits showcased an emerging need for interdisciplinary involvement for what I would say are pretty epic sentences:

~”We need to find ways to coordinate development operations, business and logistics, with quantum physicists [not to mention computer vision, machine learning and AI]”

-paraphrased from Venkateswaran Kasirajan | Author, Quantum Technology Researcher, Software Engineering Management Professional, and Founder

On the other hand, at the cryptocurrency conference, carrying forward some of the learnings from Qubits into the fintech space struck me as fairly cumbersome. While inevitable, many of the attendees were at the conference to understand financial dynamics of currency trading for items like return potential.

Financial markets aren’t going anywhere, so this isn’t a sour note. To me it is more of a missed opportunity. Delegates from Fantom hit the nail on the head at the conference suggesting that while hardware and integration capabilities may currently be technologically sound, there was a lot of work to do on the user experience side of the equation.

Work with us on the crypto UX frontier!

This left me with a more optimistic note tying Qubits and Quantum Miami together. If there was a need for orchestration amongst the “overall compute composition” between multidisciplinary stakeholders, and if there is a stable technological foundation for cryptocurrency, then perhaps user experience is the missing affordance to connect adequate resourcing and compensatory mechanisms to invest not only in compute capabilities but the teams that drive advanced solutions into public facing solutions for a myriad of problem sets.

Much like my introduction to Samuel Verreault, novel insights are yet another reason to put oneself out there and get to conferences. From the bad comes the good, and in reporting it we can start to initiate sequences to facilitate problem solving, and inevitably solutions.

The Ugly

It’s safe to assume there are a lot of industry wide things that fit into the ugly category.

  • Intrusive cyber stalking
  • Entities that master aspects of digital implementation only to take down the logistical capacities of an emergency room
  • Murky definitions of cyber ethics
  • Online financial exploitation
  • The normalization of online abuse (to name a few)

Yet pontification here is a bit of a statement of the obvious, best left to qualified subject matter experts. Instead of ruminating on the gross stuff, I’d like to cultivate this passage of the document towards how the ugly implicated our adorable little shop, and myself personally.


As age is inevitable and we exist in systems subject to the laws of entropy, I had my first of presumably many dances with the finer details of human mortality this year. I learned experientially about the reality of a disregulated nervous system from an abhorrent confluence of events I won’t detail here. Moral of the story - it sucks. Communicating health constraints as a principal is extraordinarily important. I certainly experienced one, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst adversary. Take care of your body. Take care of your brain. If we are forced in our epoch to live in a world of finite constraints, perhaps a good place to start is our own health. Be good to yourself.

Macroeconomic Uncertainty

With all of the highly complex, often interrelated, and in 2023 highly volatile industry dynamics outlined in the “bad” section (along with high interest and a recession), I got a sense there was a lot of volatile emotion in the past year, and a lot of struggle that came with doing ordinary work. Uncertainty about the 5 W’s and 1 H regarding what tools, techniques, and personnel to invest in for emerging and advanced computational utility is a mega drainer. Not only are the decisions to be made here unbelievably cumbersome, but the expenditures required to drive them invite some of our lesser instincts.

Let's build it right.

I think it’s healthy to humanize these experiences, and to label them for what they are: hard. One thing I’ve noticed with Acorn is that our best working style is immensely relationship driven. If one allows the myriad of complexities in decision making and cost affordances to interfere with the more basic premise of relationship and coalition building, the toll of effort in achievement within this space becomes exponentially harder. As such, the resolution may well be found in simplicity. Set clear goals, measure the efforts to achieve these goals, and be kind towards others. If work is hard and frustrating, don’t forget that we’re inevitably interfacing with human beings, online or off.

Financials and Company Growth

As we embark on our commercialization phase, the roles of accountants, financial auditors, and data paradigms to support this become more pertinent. One of my fall-on-my-sword acknowledgements would most certainly be to say: I wish I had figured this out sooner. These roles come out of necessities we should always be explaining:

  • Staff needs timely payments
  • Accounting systems make fiduciary reporting way easy
  • Access to capital instrumentation requires projects that are a function of data management and orchestration

With this being said, I am still puzzled with a bit of a chicken or the egg problem. If one is to focus exclusively on the financial performance of an organization they run the risk of alienating the human talents that drive financial success. Our choice was to develop skill-based fortitudes to empower the organization to be front running in emerging domains, while having extensible foundational knowledge in order to port legacy systems into future facing opportunities.

Without stable relationships internally and externally, our ability to facilitate steady revenue streams would, in my mind, be compromised. Conversely, without the availability of our lovely team of professionals at Clear Margin Accounting (thanks for everything Anthea!), our lives would be substantially more annoying.

Perhaps the most insightful locus to evaluate this from is that of a paradox. Mull on that paradox. Love that paradox. Eat that paradox up... for breakfast.

On the bright side, there’s a new family member (nephew) slash cast member to the barrel of monkeys... and I got to spend a ton of quality time with my kitty. Work, like macroeconomic states, like life, is mired with uncertainty on the best of days. Sure, a ton of it totally sucked this year but I’m optimistic moving into 2024 up and until the time it happens all over again, for other reasons...

Or perhaps no god damn reason, whatsoever..

I’m really proud of our accomplishments this year, and foundational years are what we need to underpin our long term growth, stability, and success as an organization. With our new team members helping to steer the vessel, and the new ones to come, I couldn’t be more excited.

Happy holidays everyone! Here’s to 2024.

*clinks a lemon enhanced soda water in a champagne glass*

Stay classy,

Mitch Budeski.